Things to Do in Turkish Riviera
Ancient ruins, endangered wildlife, thermal springs—a boat cruise along the Dalyan River is full of surprises. Winding its way from Lake Köyceğiz to Dalyan Village before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea, the river follows a scenic route flanked by rocky mountains, pine-clad valleys, and sandy beaches.
Butterfly Valley (Kelebekler Vadisi) makes a dramatic first impression with its narrow gorge, steep cliffs, and white sand. Reachable only by boat, the secluded cove gets its name from the many species of butterflies and moths that breed in the valley.
The Manavgat River runs down from the Taurus Mountains all the way to the Mediterranean Sea, and it’s most scenic spot is the Manavgat Waterfall (Manavgat Şelalesi). Just outside of Side, the low, wide falls make a stunning backdrop for photos and serve as a popular recreation area, with visitors coming to swim, picnic, or cruise along the river.
Perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the harbor, the striking Castle of St. Peter (also known as Bodrum Castle or Bodrumm Kalesi) is an instantly recognizable Bodrum landmark and one of the city’s top tourist attractions. Built by the Knights Hospitaller of Rhodes in the 15th century, the castle was designed by German architect Heinrich Schlegelholt and partially crafted from the stones of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Despite losing its since-reconstructed minaret in WWI bombings, the castle remains a remarkably preserved example of medieval architecture, encircled by its imposing sea walls and including a moat, a mosque added by Süleyman the Magnificent in 1522 and five towers - the English, Italian, German, French and Snake towers. Today St. Peter's Castle is open to visitors and hosts the impressive Bodrum Museum of Underwater Archaeology. It also provides a dramatic backdrop for cultural events and festivals throughout the year.
Standing proud on a rocky outcrop in the heart of the city, medieval Alanya Castle (Alanya Kalesi) is Alanya’s defining landmark. Encircled by 4 miles (6 kilometers) of walls, the Inner Fortress (Iç Kale) houses the remains of an 11th-century church, while the Ehmedek Castle area hosts ruins dating back to ancient Greek times.
The town of Alanya lies on the southern coast of Turkey in the Antalya region. It is a popular beach resort town and draws tourists from many countries around the world. One of the city's best beaches is Cleopatra Beach (Kleopatra Plajı) located on the west side of the peninsula near the Damlataş Caves. The name comes from the legend that says the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra stopped in Alanya during a voyage in the Mediterranean Sea and swam in the bay.
Kleopatra Beach is a sandy one with clear water. It is a Blue Flag beach due to its high standards for water quality, safety, and environmental services. Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities. When you get hungry, there are plenty of nearby cafes and restaurants serving Turkish and international dishes. Other activities in the area include exploring the dripping Damlataş Caves, wandering through the old town, and learning about the region's rich history.
A massive 350-mile mountain range standing tall over the plains of southeastern Turkey, the Taurus Mountains (Toros Daglari) are full of craggy peaks and clear lakes worthy of exploration. The range once separated two major cultures of the ancient world: Anatolia and Syria.
Aladaglar National Park is home to Demirkazik, the range's tallest peak at 12,323 feet (3,756 meters). With Antalya as a base, visitors come to the Taurus Mountains for hiking, mountain climbing, and in the winter, skiing at two different resorts in the range. Old caravan routes run through the seemingly impenetrable mountains, leading to dramatic canyons, hidden pastures, isolated valleys and pristine mountain lakes.
Many of the peaks are formed of white limestone, though often heavily covered in pine and cedar forests. The mountains are named after the bull (Taurus) that once represented many of the ancient gods here. It is possible to come across one of the many small villages that have existed here for centuries.
According to legend, Cleopatra enjoyed clandestine rendezvous with her lover, Marc Antony, on the shores of this tiny island in the Aegean Sea, just off the Gulf of Gokova. Their story makes the island a renowned romantic spot. Its other claim to fame is its unusually textured sand, which is made up of smooth, white, ground-up seashells.
The Duden Waterfalls sit at the end of the river of the same name, which winds its way through the Taurus Mountains before tumbling from a cliff into a valley next to the Mediterranean. The falls consist of two cascades, and the upper part is nearly 50 feet (15 meters) tall and 65 feet (20 meters) wide.
Built and extended between the 14th and 18th centuries, picturesque Kusadasi Castle sits on Pigeon Island (Guvercin Adasa), an islet connected to Kusadasi via a causeway. Originally constructed as a military base, the fortress is composed of outer walls that enclose its gardens and an inner castle with a tiny museum.
More Things to Do in Turkish Riviera
Known in English as St Nicholas Island, Gemiler Island (Gemiler Adası) lies along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey, south from Fethiye and west of the sandy beach at Ölüdeniz. Separated from the mainland by a narrow sea channel, it is a tiny speck of an islet, just 400 meters (1,312 feet) wide and 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) long but is renowned for its wealth of Byzantine ruins, which date back more than 1,500 years.
Gemiler Island was once one of Christendom’s most popular pilgrimage points with devotees heading for Jerusalem in the Middle Ages. They came to honor the tomb of St. Nicholas – the original Father Christmas, who was Bishop of Myra on the Turkish coast opposite. Even though his remains were moved to the mainland in 650 AD, the island is still occasionally known as St. Nicholas Island. Also around this time, the little Byzantine settlement on Gemiler came under threat from pirates and was abandoned as the residents moved to the mainland for protection.
Today a chaotic jumble of ruins covers much of the island, comprising the scattered remains of four churches, evidence of Byzantine houses, a port, waterways, tombs and graveyards. Stores once stood along the shoreline, where traders would sell olive oil and grain to passing ships. The fragments of St Nicholas’s tomb that still stand today reveal faint vestiges of frescoes depicting scenes from his life; these are open to the elements and are slowly deteriorating in the sun.
Gemiler has plenty of rocky bays providing safe mooring for yachts and provides excellent snorkeling along its coastline; tumbledown ruins can occasionally be spotted just below the surface of the sea.
A narrow spit of sand stretching out into the ocean, Iztuzu Beach (Turtle Beach) takes its name from the loggerhead sea turtles that nest on its shores. Forming a natural barrier between the Dalyan River and the Mediterranean Sea, the protected beach is one of the most important breeding grounds for the endangered creatures in Turkey.
Though Saklikent translates from Turkish as Hidden City, urban life is the last thing that comes to mind in Saklikent National Park (Saklikent Milli Parki). Encompassing a dramatic gorge that cuts through the mountains, the national park is a playground of river rapids, streams, waterfalls, and cliffs.
Warm springs bubble around and under Lake Koycegiz, making mud baths a signature of the waterfront town of Dalyan. Minerals give the mud a sulfur smell, but can, locals say, work miracles on aging skin. Just lounge in the shallow pools, coat yourself in glop, then rinse off in the river, lake, showers, or spring-fed pool.
A tall gorge filled with turquoise streams and waterfalls, Sapadere Canyon (Sapadere Kanyonu or Sapadere Kanyon) is a retreat into nature in the Turkish Riviera. Formed centuries ago by erosion from water and ice, it stands 360 meters long and nearly 400 meters high. Fresh air breezes through the canyon, filled with the sounds of rushing water and wildlife such as butterflies and birds.
Once unknown outside of locals, facilities were only recently built to welcome visitors from all over Turkey and the world. A natural wooden path curves through the park, at times leading to pools for swimming (especially welcome in the summer heat.) High rocks and the Torsos mountains scenically surround you as you walk through. At the end of the path is the canyon’s most impressive waterfall, which also has a spot ideal for swim in the clear waters. The nearby Sapadere Village is also worth a stop.
Dotted with a dozen islands interspersed with secluded bays and inlets, and set against a backdrop of forested hills that slope dramatically up from the shore, the Gulf of Fethiye (Fethiye Körfezi) offers one of Turkey’s prettiest stretches of coastline and is deservedly popular as a boating destination.
One of the most enjoyable ways to see the area is on a daylong “12-island cruise” that takes passengers around the gulf. Most cruises make stops at about five or six of the islands (all of one of which are uninhabited), allowing time for swimming, snorkeling and other activities.
Highlights might include exploring the remains of a Byzantine church and Roman shipyard on Tersane; swimming off the long, sandy beaches of the Yassıca Adalar (“Flat Islands”); or taking a dip amidst the half-submerged Roman ruins known as “Cleopatra’s Baths.”
For travelers with more time, three- or four-day cruises, in which you sleep onboard the boat between daily excursions, allow you to experience the delights of the Gulf of Fethiye at a more leisurely pace.
Reaching a height of 12,500 feet (2,365 meters), Mount Olympos (Tahtali Dagi) is the highest mountain of Beydaglari Coastal National Park. Named after the ancient Lycian city of Olympos—the ruins of which lie along the coast just to the south—the mighty peak is surrounded by a dramatic panorama of mountains, forest, and ocean.
Scaling the 12,500-foot-high (2,365-meter-high) peak of Tahtali Mountain—ancient Mount Olympus—the Olympos Cable Car (Olympos Teleferik) is the most popular attraction in Beydaglari Coastal National Park. At the summit, a panoramic observation deck affords spectacular views over the forested Taurus Mountains and the Mediterranean coast.
With a 5-star hotel, a gigantic water park, a luxurious shopping avenue, and plenty of amusement park rides, the Land of Legends is a one-stop-shop for family entertainment. Open to both day visitors and Land of Legends hotel guests, the theme park is one of the largest of its kind in Turkey.
Marking the eastern entrance to Kaleiçi—Antalya’s historic Old Town—Hadrian’s Gate is the last of the city’s ancient gates, dating back to AD 130. Named in honor of Roman emperor Hadrian after his visit to the city, the triple-arched gateway is decorated with marble columns and is one of Antalya’s most distinctive landmarks.
Rocky coves and pine-clad cliffs make a scenic backdrop for a boat cruise, but the biggest attraction of Kekova Island (Kekova Adasi) is underwater. The uninhabited island harbors the sprawling ruins of an ancient Lycian city, submerged after an earthquake in the second century and now lying at the bottom of the Mediterranean.
A Greco-Roman amphitheater and rock tombs carved into the cliffside make the ruins at Myra a popular stop along Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Dating back as early as the 1st century BC, the ancient Lycian capital of Myra lies just outside the modern town of Demre.
The Red Tower (Kızıl Kule) is the most well known tower in Alanya Castle, Turkey. The castle was built in the 13th century and was used as a defensive fortification until the time of the Ottoman Empire. Today it is a museum offering visitors a chance to explore the history of this area. The view from the castle is striking due to is location 820 feet high on a rocky peninsula that sticks out into the Mediterranean Sea. From here you can see the beach town of Alanya, the sea itself, the Pamphylian plain and Cilician mountains.
The Red Tower stands 95 feet tall and is one of 140 towers that surround the castle. It is the start and end of four miles of walls that once protected the castle from invaders. The walls pass through the battlements, the Citadel, several bastions, the arsenal, and the shipyard before reconnecting with the Red Tower.
The Fire of Anatolia show is a dramatic tribute to Anatolia’s rich history. Watch as 120 dancers take to the stage, performing a mix of traditional and modern Turkish dance to live music complete with dazzling lights and costumes. See the show at the purpose-built, open-air Gloria Aspendos Arena.
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